Since I was a child I always had pets, mostly cats, birds and a the best German Shepard a young girl could ask for. When I left home nearly fourteen years ago for boot camp I knew it was only a matter of time before I had pets of my own and in 1998 when I moved into my first apartment it was two big black cats that graced my home. Since then we have had a few different cats and our one and only dog, the laziest Jack Russel EVER, Macy. Even with our many moves from one end of the world and back we have had our pets. Macy has been with me and my husband since the before we were married and there was no way we would ever leave her behind for any reason. Our furry and feathered and sometimes slimy friends are so very important to us. How do we ensure they live the most full and rich lives when we move so often to so many different places? Since Macy is 10 and one of those first black cats will be 12 I am going to give you tips on how we have done it.
1. Immunizations are a must! All government housing has rules and regulations about what pet immunizations are required. Your best bet is to go the nearest Army vet and have your pets immunized with them. Like our medical records that never change from one duty to the next, the Army vet is the same for our pets. This will come in very handy when you have to move overseas. We learned the hard way on that one.
2. Always call ahead and ask the Navy Housing or Management office if there are pet policies. Knowing these will help you decide where you will live. Not all breeds of dogs, fish tank sizes or exotic pets are permitted in government housing. Ignorance isn’t bliss when it comes to these sorts of issues. Knowledge is power!
3. Never take “NO” for an answer when moving overseas. Weeks before we were to fly to Japan the person taking care of our PCS told us we couldn’t take our pets with us and we knew better because for almost a year we had been going through the overseas process with the vet. To my knowledge (and I could be wrong) you can take your vet to any overseas duty station where you can take your family. You just need to ask about the procedures involved brining your pet. The Army vet will mostly likely be able to answer all your questions.
4. Keep cats inside. Many people love cats but don’t want them in their homes. This causes problems with the neighborhood. One of my beloved black cats had to go and live with another family where he could roam without problems because my neighbors didn’t like that he was killing the birds at the bird feeders. If you live in the south with alligators….enough said on that, you get where I am going. So, if having to share your home with a cat isn’t appealing to you then maybe this isn’t the best pet for you.
5. Have an emergency plan. In the Navy we almost always live where there are hurricanes and evacuations are always a possibility. We always think about ourselves and our home when evacuating but don’t forget about your pets. Look into where you will be staying if you have to leave your home. Can you have your pet with you? Or will you have to board them elsewhere? Don’t leave them behind! Keep rabies certificates, prescription and any other important medical information with all your other important documents. This will come in handy if you are displaced for a long period of time. Even the pets in Japan were evacuated with their owners after the tsunami.
6. Microchip your cats and dogs. A couple of years ago I was able to reunite an owner with their dog because it had been microchipped. Microchipping could save your pet from going to what I like to call “Puppy Jail” because animal control officers are able to contact you via the information on the chip. Note that you may want to use a family member who isn’t moving anytime soon. Then you don’t have to worry about having to change the information every time you move.
7. When you and/or family are in at a point where you are unable to take your pet contact Dogs On Deployment (this is for all pets not just dogs)! This is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help military families place their pets with boards during deployments, moves or any other time they are unable to bring their pets with them. Most often than not, pets end up at shelters because owners feel like they have no option. Now we do! Look them up and keep your pet.
Pets are so important to our quality of life. I do realize that many families opt to not have pets and that is okay, too. But for those of who do, they really help make our many homes feel more like home. My life wouldn’t feel quite complete without a purring cat on my lap or my little dog filling the empty space in my bed at night. They always know when we feel down in dumps and help us feel better. Whether it means taking the dog for a long walk to clear your head or laughing while watching cats have the midnight crazies. Let us not forget how these creatures big and small help our children by giving them something of a constancy in life. My boys have lived all their lives with our dog, just one thing that has never changed (because so many other things do) in their young lives. If you have been holding back on owning a pet, I hope these tips help to bring your family one step closer to that goal.